Over the years, sexual assault has become a topic that is debated quite frequently by public figures, celebrities, and everyday people. According to the Department of Justice (2017) “Sexual assaults is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempting rape” (Department of Justice, 2017, sexual assault).

In your community, today, or even your immediate circle of peers, do you think you could spot the signs of sexual assault? This includes those peers in relationships or marriages, not just the peers that are single. Sexual coercion (abuse) can be used in any circumstance including a child or adult and for several reasons. Coercion, or the act of persuading, can be used to manipulate others into behavior that they normally would not engage in causing confusion and strife. In relationships, this can be frustrating for the partner who agreed in the moment but doesn’t want to participate in the act again. They may feel overwhelmed by their choice and unsure what it means and how to move forward. One of the most important things to realize is that as a human begin you have the right to say NO! Even if you said yes at one time or another. You are in control of your body and no one should force you to do anything you are uncomfortable with.

Communication is key in relationships and if there is none RUN [QUICKLY]!

Warning Signs that could lead to a sexual assault:

  • Withdrawing from other relationships or activities, for example, spending less time with friends, leaving sports teams, or dropping classes
  • Saying that their partner doesn’t want them to engage in social activities or is limiting their contact with others
  • Disclosing that sexual assault has happened before
  • Any mention of a partner trying to limit their contraceptive options or refusing to use safer sexual practices, such as refusing to use condoms or not wanting them to use birth control
  • Mentioning that their partner is pressuring them to do things that make them uncomfortable
  • Signs that a partner controlling their means of communication, such as answering their phone or text messages or intruding into private conversations
  • Visible signs of physical abuse, such as bruises or black eyes

Warning signs that a sexual assault already occurred:

  • Signs of depression, such as persistent sadness, lack of energy, changes in sleep or appetite, withdrawing from normal activities, or feeling “down”
  • Self-harming behaviors, thoughts of suicide, or suicidal behaviors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Anxiety or worry about situations that did not seem to cause anxiety in the past
  • Avoiding specific situations or places
  • Falling grades or withdrawing from classes
  • Increase in drug or alcohol use

Although there are many ways to look at sexual assault, it’s important to remember that the survivor is never to blame. If you have experienced sexual violence or need support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

References

Department of Justice. (2017). Sexual Assault. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault

RAINN. (2017). Scope of the problem: Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem

RAINN. (2017). Warning Signs of College-Age Adults. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/articles/warning-signs-college-age-adults